Opposing coaches tip their cap for LeBron James’ MVP candidacy – Orange County Register

The “LeBron for MVP” cry has started early this season. And no one’s touting him quite like … opposing coaches?

It might seem strange, especially for Eastern Conference coaches who James spent so much of his career frustrating and vexing. But Boston coach Brad Stevens thinks the four MVP awards the 36-year-old already owns deserve more company – a lot more.

“He is as special as special gets, and he would be a multiple-time-more MVP award-winner if people weren’t bored and looking for other things to discuss, right?” Stevens said. “He’s been the best player in the league for however many years now. … Nothing but the utmost respect for him. I’ve never had anything but.”

That’s a truism in the coaching ranks around the league, but in his 18th season, James has helped even opposing coaches vocalize it. James entered Saturday’s game in Boston averaging 25.5 points, 7.5 assists and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range. Perhaps most impressively, he’s yet to miss a game after a short offseason, rife with speculation that James stoked himself that he might rest in certain games early on.

Dwane Casey, whose Toronto teams James steamrolled again and again in the playoffs during his Cleveland runs, might feel a little warmer toward him now that he’s out West. Casey compared James’ shape to a 21-year-old, still able to physically be atop the game while improving his skills.

“You look in the dictionary and see a picture of a perfect basketball player, that guy’s there,” he said. “You hate playing against him. But as a basketball fan and when you’re not coaching against him, you enjoy watching him play because you see the nuances he brings to the table.”

James certainly has spirited younger contenders between him and a fifth regular-season MVP: Denver center Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia center Joel Embiid are popular first-time candidates, while Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant could be contending for his second MVP while averaging more than 30 points in a comeback from an Achilles tendon injury that kept him out all of last year.

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